Seattle Spring 2009: Seattle Bites Food Tours at Pike Place Market

ChowtimesNoWord32x32This is a complementary tour from Seattle Bites Food Tours.

We had been to the Pike Place Market for so many times we have actually lost count. After a first two visits we thought we had seen everything. When I told a friend that we’re going to the Pike Place Market (again!), I remember him telling me that the place is so boring, nothing to see and do.

This time it is different. This time we were there for a purpose … to learn, to experience and to chow!

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I can’t think of anyone who had been to Seattle and had not visited the Pike Place Market. After all, this place is the oldest farmer’s market in the US and is considered the mother of all public markets.

I am going to do this story in two parts. Today, I am going to share with you a little about what we learned at the Pike Place Market. I am going to also describe the Seattle Bites Food Tour. Tomorrow, it will be all about the food at the Pike Place Market … awesome food, and lots of it too.

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We had an invite from the Seattle Bites Food Tours to experience the Pike Place Market in a way that is not possible if you are there on your own. When we got the invite we jumped on it. It so happened too that I had to clear my vacation days (which had ballooned to over six weeks).

We went with the primary expectation of tasting the food. What we encountered was beyond our expectations. Not only is this a walking food tour but it is also a historical journey of the Pike Place Market.

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The meeting point was at the Seattle Art Museum which is located one block from Pike Place Market. We met Jan Marie Johnson who was our guide for the tour. She is very familiar with the market and knows the merchants very well.

We had a little tour of the Seattle Art Museum where Jan Marie pointed out to us many interesting facts and historical buildings around the Art Museum.

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Suanne and I were given personal listening devices. It was particularly useful when walking through the din in the market. What I like is that this allows me to roam away to have a closer look at other stores while at the same time keeping in touch with what is being said.

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We were also issued shopping bags in the event we wanted to buy anything from the market or from the places we went to.

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The history of the Pike Place Market started way back in the early 1900’s. You know where the exact place where it all began? It was at where the UPS truck you see above. Jan went on to describe (illustrated with old photos) of the early days — I felt that I was there!

Throughout the entire 2.5 to 3 hour tour, Jan Marie brought us through starting with the events leading to the founding of the public market, to the depression era, the expansion years, World War II, the near demolition of the place and to the modern day. It is today a flourishing public market like no other.

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We had always wonder about the bronze pig at the entrance of the Pike Place Market. This is Rachel and it’s a real piggy bank. This piggy bank has in it just about every kind of currency in the world.

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MaxFrut — Gourmet Fruitcicles

ChowtimesNoWord32x32This post is written with sampling at MaxFrut. We are not paid for this post.

“Yes Virgina. Not only are there Gourmet Jerkies, there is such a thing as Gourmet Popsicle”

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Anna of MaxFrut invited us to visit their premises to check out their cool new product … fruitcicles, not popsicles. We went right after the lunch we had at Kash Cool. It was just perfect … this will be dessert after the heavy lunch.

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MaxFrut is located just around the corner from Kash Cool. They are located in an industrial area on 127 Garden Ave. This is where the MaxFrut Flavour Lab is … the birth place of the many uniquely cool flavours.

We were greeted by the lovely Anna who were so helpful with our many questions. Suanne and I love learning about the food we eat and was lapping up every single word she said.

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As much as we were curious, we were more excited when Anna brought this large tray of samples. Oooo … nice!

Hey … these are not your day to day popsicles. These are what Anna calls whole fruit frozen fruitcicles. She had made a new batch of interesting flavour of cucumber lime. What a combination but really, it was quite nice and fresh.

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They had all kinds of Classic flavours made from real fruits. Since this is a laboratory of sorts, they even have Premium flavours which is not found elsewhere but here in the flavour lab in North Vancouver.

We noticed they had a $5 bill tagged on the top corner of this poster. Suanne and I guessed that it must be the first $5 they sold here. You think?

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It was fun learning about flavours. Out of curiosity, Anna brought out some chili seasonings and use us as guinea pigs. She wanted to see how we react to this odd combination.

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Mango fruitcicle is a very Asian flavour since it is a common tropical fruit found abundantly in South and South East Asia. So, Anna figured perhaps some chilli seasonings may go OK with the Mango fruitcicle.

The taste was … errrr … different. It was not bad especially. Who would have thought of putting chilli on popsicles? MaxFruit would, that’s who!

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Tea Cocktail from Pearl Drops Teahouse

Updated: 21st Dec 2014; This restaurant is closed according to Urbanspoon.com.

ChowtimesNoWord32x32This is an Open Teahouse Cocktail Night by Pearl Drops Teahouse.

I am not much of a tea person, neither is Suanne. The only tea we had ever had on a regular basis is the Ice Milk Tea we get from HK Style Cafe.

So, when we got an invite to a Tea Cocktail event we jumped on this. Pearl Drops Teahouse also extended the invite to readers of chowtimes. We posted the invite a few weeks ago and we were very surprised how well known Pearl Drops is to the tea discerning public.

I tried to rally Doesnt Tazte Like Chicken and Sea Salt With Food to attend this together. Doesnt Tazte Like Chicken came but Sea Salt With Food sent apologies saying she can’t get away.

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Suanne and I does not normally travel to this part of town where Pearl Drops is located. They are conveniently located on the junction of Willingdon and Hastings in Burnaby. Locating the place is a no brainer and parking is also easy (free!).

We went early … like 30 minutes before the event started at 7PM. Our plan is to have tea, spend a little time here and then go for a later dinner with Christina and ET. It was a good decision because the place was absolutely packed when the event got started.

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The man behind Pearl Drops Teahouse is Phong Vo. He started this teahouse with his wife, Huyen, about 3.5 years ago. They had always been running the business from this location since day 1. It was a great pleasure meeting Phong who came across to us as humble and friendly. He is not only knowledgeable about all things tea but we found out that he also cooks.

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I was rather intrigued by the Tea Seminars poster Phong had put up … particularly the one that says Food and Tea Pairing. That’s like wow … $39. I had heard about wine pairing with fine food but with tea? Phong does really take tea to the next level … like making tea a gourmet drink of sorts.

I got to try one of these meals one day. I don’t know what to expect but I just gotta try it! For that kind of money, it better be good. :-p

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In this event, Phong was showcasing three of his signature Tea Cocktails. So what exactly is it? To simply put, it is freshly brewed tea combined with fresh fruit … that’s what my impression was. Suanne loves this a lot.

The one above is called the Solar Flare ($6). It is made of Japanese Karigane Green Tea, Fresh Kumquats and Lemon/Lime. It is noticeably very refreshing for a tea.

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The crunchy kumquats are edible, of course. It is like miniature oranges except that you eat it whole … the sweet rind and the sour juicy centers gives a nice little contrast to the taste.

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Pearl Drops uses only the best of ingredients. Melody showed us a little bit of the Japanese Green Tea they use to make the tea cocktails. We were told that they only use the stem and stalk (not the leaves) which gives the tea the extra mellowness.

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Each tea is steeped with perfect timing and at consistent temperature. The process looked pretty elaborate to us.

Also, they use only the minimal amount of sugar to make the beverage taste better, not to make it overly sweet. They do not touch up their fresh fruit with artificial syrups at all.

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They also had three types of Hor’ Dourves that night. The Coconut Curry Chicken ($8) is normally served with rice but for this night they served it with baguettes. It smells good and the taste of the curry is fresh. We like this … so rich of spices and yet hardly any need for hotness. (more…)

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Qoola on Denman, Vancouver

Updated: 22nd Dec 2014; This restaurant is closed according to Urbanspoon.com.

ChowtimesNoWord32x32This post is written based on a complementary meal from Qoola.

A week ago, Suanne and I received an invitation to checkout a new frozen yogurt place called Qoola. Since we were going to be in downtown anyway for the Taste BC event on the same night, we decided to pop over. I know it is kind of weird … we were going for yogurt, waffle and crepes immediately after wine and cheese, sushi, burger … all on the same night.

So, Suanne, Angie and I took a short drive to the western end of Denman to where Qoola is. Qoola is actually located at the old location of Cupcakes (1116 Denman).

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We were met up front by Warrick who is the man behind the entire idea of Qoola. Warrick came across to us as a bright, energetic young man with great passion in what he does.

Qoola had been opened for just one month so everything is spanking clean. We love the bright greenish interior. Qoola is green … more greener than what we expected and we soon realized how seriously green they are.

We had a crash course, to say the least … much of which went swosh over my head. Too much data and too technical for me after all the wine from Taste BC.

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Not really a person who knows what is what, we left the choice to Warrick and his partners. The only thing we asked is that they surprise us. First came their Green Tea Yogurt with blueberry and marionberry sauce. It was good and we like it.

I don’t care much for frozen yogurt. The only time I had frozen yogurt of note is Red Mango which we had in Bellevue,WA. I was told that many frozen yogurt places uses powdered yogurt which contains only about 1 million bacteria. However, Qoola uses only fresh yogurt despite its limited shelf life of a couple of weeks only. Fresh yogurt has 400 times more bacteria than powdered yogurt.

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The next surprise is the Original yogurt with apples, cinnamon flakes and caramel sauce. We love this more than the earlier one. I like especially the fresh looking and crunchy apple chunks. (more…)

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Howie’s Bistro and Bar on Lougheed Highway, Burnaby

Updated: 6th Jan 2011; This restaurant had been closed according to Urbanspoon.com.

ChowtimesNoWord32x32This is a complementary meal from Howie’s Bistro and Bar.

I must admit. It had been a horrid week at work last week. Fresh from a successful roll out of one project, I had been plonked right into a distressed project which had been millions over budget, months overdue and the scope loosely defined. That goes without saying that team morale is not particularly high. I had to virtually reset the project plan and that resulted in 10-12 hour days. At the end of the week, I was totally drained and what I wanted was just forget about work and go out for a drink and a meal.

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Of late, we had quite a lot of recommendations for places to try. Maria suggested that we check out Howie’s in Burnaby. I checked Howie’s website and decided that this is exactly what I wanted. Since Suanne was around Kingsway on errands, we made plans for a nice dinner and drinks … just the two of us.

Howie’s Bistro and Bar is located on Lougheed Hwy and Bainsbridge Ave.

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We were there just after five and we found that we were the only customer there. We love the setting. It was really well maintained with everything arranged so carefully. They even have a stage and a dance floor. It was after seven that the crowds began to turn up. Apparently, they have nightly events and tonight was a dance night. Suanne and I are not into the dancing scene and we were quite surprised to see how many people actually come by for a dance. They even have karaoke on Thursday nights.

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My mind was fixated on a nice drink. This was perfect because Howie had quite an extensive drink and wine menu. We took our time and just ordered the drinks before we figure out the food. For all I care, I wanted to take my own sweet time and forget about work!

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I ordered the Howie’s Com’n Gold which is described as “aliz? gold passion, peach schnapps, lychee liqueur, mango & raspberry”. I had no idea what it is but were told that it is like Bellini … fruity and all but with a Howie’s twist. It sounded good to me. This one is $7. (more…)

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